Victoria’s Secret catalog goes online only. Adolescent males in mourning.

OK, now they’ve really done it! It was bad enough when Playboy magazine swore off running NUDE photos in their publication, but now Victoria’s Secret is discontinuing mailing out its iconic catalog, and will only direct market its compelling lingerie merchandise online . Oh sure, even though the company’s sales are good, the maneuver is touted as an expense saving tactic, and one that aligns more closely with today’s shopping behaviors.Elsa-Hosk-Victorias-Secret-Swim-2016-Cover-Catalog

Maybe that’s true for the great majority of their older, sorta “adult” customers who actually buy this stuff, but what about the young pubescent adolescents only beginning to form their own  brand recognition, and appreciation of the female form and lingerie draping of it?

No Cisco, I realize that 350 million hard copy catalogs and postage for 22 mailings a year can get a little pricey, BUT ….aside from what might be a negative impact on the Victoria’s Secret brand among their actual paying/shopping customers (see below):

In a research note entitled, “Every Guy’s Worst Nightmare,” Citi retail analysts estimated the company would save about $100 million by eliminating the catalogs, but worried the move would hurt sales “as the brand may be less top of mind with male and female customers long-term.”

What about the the little teenage and below boys that use the hard copy piece (excuse the unintentional play on words) for relief and practice behind closed doors in their rooms or bathrooms? You all know what I’m referring to.

imagesEveryone learns how to ride a bike somewhere, and sometimes it’s good to have training wheels.

Philip Roth’s 1969 novel, “Portnoy’s Complaint”, pulled the metaphorical shower curtain back on what little boys were doing in the bathroom or elsewhere with mom’s Sears catalog or dad’s stash of True Detective magazines or National Geographic’s latest coverage of topless Borneo natives. I’ll never forget the perfectly descriptive “bent over my flying fist” imagery from the book.

Well, with the arrival on the scene of Victoria’s Secret catalog in the 90’s, the “bent over” operation was ratcheted up several levels. Now, young males had breathtakingly beautiful women attired in stunning and dramatic costumes, posed in alluring (to say the least) poses. What was not to like?

The short answer was/is nothing. Nothing not to like. And something to mentally (and physically) “use.” But that’s all gone now. A mobile phone or tablet device is just not the same, and cannot be comfortably held on one’s lap while other procedures are being performed.

So I’m predicting that very young males love affair with Victoria’s Secret is going to suffer a bit. And, ultimately, along with less active connection to their lingerie offering, brand interest and connection may lessen.

So I hope VS’s management put that into their long term brand allegiance model. Yes, the world is going digital and mobile, but some things for some audiences were perhaps better served by nice glossy printed pages. We’ll see.neuman


New survey confirms power of “emotional” in brand loyalty … SME’s, YOU BETTER BE PAYING ATTENTION!

Brand Keys, a New York company that specializes in brand and customer-loyalty consulting, just released its 2012 edition of its top 100 “Loyalty Leaders” list.  The composition and rankings of this year’s list leaders reflects the continuous effects of the rapid pace of technological change and customer response to it.

“There are 21 brands in the top 100 for 2012 that did not appear in 2011,” said Robert Passikoff, Founder and President of Brand Keys, “including four of the brands in the top 10.” A copy of the report, which is the 16th from Brand Keys that ranks brands on customer loyalty, can be downloaded here.

Now, on a list of highest brand loyalty leaders, the composition and rankings can change, based on a variety of internal and external factors. However, one thing that remains constant is just what got them here (that is, on the list), and that is (drum roll please) the EMOTIONAL component of their brands. Or as Passikoff puts it, “Brand loyalty has always been primarily driven by emotional engagement … that connection is everything.”

 Now, Robert is a guy who ought to know, since he’s been conducting this particular brand loyalty measure for over 16 years, and of course doing a lot more a lot longer than just that. In fact, I was an associate of his at a major New York agency, more years ago than I’m sure either one of us would like to admit. I’m familiar with his work. As they say about a famous NBA basketball player, “He’s the real deal.”

Which brings me to what this means for all you SME’s out there. You have GOT to leverage the emotional sides of your brands to drive loyalty among your customers/audience. The EMOTIONAL component of your brands is critical, whether they are B2B or B2C, high or low tech, services or products, anything. It is what will get you brand loyalty, and that will get you:

  1. Repeat business.
  2. Pricing leverage.
  3. Favorable word of mouth.
  4. Forgiveness for your screw ups (sometimes).

OK, so what’s the plan for developing effective BRANDED MARKETING communications?

NOTE: This is the first in a series of four posts, outlining my view as to what is involved in developing powerful, branded marketing communications. Post #1 below provides an overview. It will be followed by three subsequent posts presenting the separate components: Brand Essence, Unique Selling Proposition (U.S.P.) and Individual Sales Messages.

POST # 1 … Notice in the above headline it is BRANDED MARKETING communications; not “branded communications”, not “marketing communications”. The logic for that is that just a “branded” effort may well communicate a sense of the brand, but without the critical underpinnings of “marketing,” whatever it is you’re selling….you probably won’t. The other side of the same coin, just “marketing communications,” ties back to what this whole blog is all about and what I believe is missing in most SME communications efforts today…the branding connection (especially to some of the emotional components). I guess, arguably, a price list is a marketing communication, BUT … you get the picture.

So let’s explore what a SME needs to do to develop its effective branded marketing communications campaign.


Define your brand, its essence or soul if you will. This is a statement, reflecting an amalgam of rational and emotional aspects that will attract customers, make them comfortable with the brand and support their continued closeness to it. It is NOT a tagline, advertising claim, whatever. It is a statement that attempts to capture exactly what the brand is “all about.” It will be used as almost a template to insure that future derived communications are consonant (that’s the same as “in tune,” for those that had a problem with 9th grade English) with what the brand stands for. This statement or template is called the “Brand Essence”.


The U.S.P. is the most borrowed, incorrectly used and just plain abused advertising term ever developed. It was posited by Ted Bates agency Chairman Rosser Reeves in 1961. I’ll explain much more about it in forthcoming Post #3. Suffice it to say it is an encapsulation of the optimum selling idea; one that can differentiate the brand and attract people to it. It can be used as an advertising tagline or claim, but usually not. Its better use is to serve as a standard or if you will, a benchmark, against which all advertising executions, copy and even individual selling messages are reviewed to insure they are working as hard as possible and having maximum impact.

Distill Individual SALES MESSAGES

Now we’re down to the fun part and one where everyone from Marketing to Sales to Government Affairs can play. Depending on the objectives that branded marketing communications are meant to achieve (or, let’s admit it, even just influence), potentially hundreds of valid individual sales messages can be generated and used, when and where appropriate in the course of business. Most of these should be pretty much in line with the U.S.P. and Brand Essence, but there can be outliers that serve short term tactical needs. Look for more on this … how to generate them, how to prioritize them and more in coming Post #4.

Ok, so there you have it, just how you can generate powerful BRANDED MARKETING communications (remember now, that’s both “Branded” and “Marketing”). Stay tuned and I’ll explain more in detail for each of the three key areas. Who knows? Maybe someday I can help you in person. Just let me know…


Kids’ Brains React More Positively to Fast Food Logos Than Those of FedEx or BMW. Well, duh!

Medical Daily  reports a study conducted by researchers from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center found that logos from fast-fooders are branded into the minds of children at an early age.

The study, showed children 60 logos from popular food brands, like Rice Krispies and KFC and 60 logos from popular non-food brands, like BMW and FedEx. The children were aged between 10 and 14. Then, using a functional MRI scanner, which measures blood flow to different areas in the brain, they watched the brains of these children react to the different logos.

When showed images of fast food companies, the parts of the brain that control pleasure and appetite lit up. The brains did not do the same when showed images from companies not associated with food. (Hmmmm, I guess those were brands like FedEx and BMW.)

So far so good, but then the article reports “researchers are concerned that marketers for these companies (the fast fooders) are tapping into the reward portions of the brain long before children develop self-control. In addition, most of the foods marketed to children are high in caloric content, sugars, fat and sodium.

This little segue follows nicely the Medical Daily article’s  two opening paragraphs, referencing rampant growth (pardon my word selection) in child obesity since 1980.

I hope we can all see where this is going.

Strong brands and their communications targeting relevant audiences do a good job of establishing brand awareness among those who actually might buy their products. It is proven by research. It is also proven in the research that brands that are irrelevant to the researched target audience, 10-14 year olds, actually sink below the waves and don’t register or are forgotten.

But don’t let those issues of relevancy get in the way. Fast food is bad for children. Fast brands are remembered and pleasurable to 10-14 year old children (so I would bet are xBox, Apple iPod, Justin Bieber and others). Sooooo, we need to take (legal, governmental, you put a name on it) action to PROTECT them from the brand meanies that get them fat. Cigarettes, motorcycle helmets, etc. …some of those regulations make sense, but until those 10 year olds start driving BMW’s and FedExing a lot, I don’t think this research and where it’s headed is 1) valid (potentially false hypothesis), 2) useful ( no fast food = skinny kids?) and 3) should be actionable (“keep the government’s hands off my fries”).

Read the complete article .